Washington Capitals Month In Review: November

The month of November was a  story of “The good, the bad and the ugly” for the Washington Capitals. There was a lot of good as their 10-2-2 record indicates and they gained some separation in the Southeast by going 5-1-0 against division opponents including a 6-0 shutout of the Lightning. Their powerplay was also somewhat rejuvenated, moving up into 3rd place in the league with a 32. 5% efficiency rate on the month. Their penalty kill has fallen back to earth but is still in the top 10 in the league, killing off 82.3% of their penalties in November. The big 3 have been clicking this month as Alexander Semin has been on a tear scoring 12 goals and 7 assists this month. Alexander Ovechkin only had 3 goals but 16 assists and is on pace for a franchise record at this rate. Nicklas Backstrom is also producing well with 17 points.

The bad comes on their inability to close out games. I literally lost count of how many leads the Caps have blown this month but thankfully they were able to come back to win in most of them or win in a shootout. The ugly came later in the month on two road games where they were blown out 5-0 by the Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils. Coach Bruce Boudreau responded by bag skating the team the day after the New Jersey loss and they won their next three games.

Remember last month I said the goals would eventually come to this team? Well, aside from being shut out twice, they scored 52 goals this month. Compared to the 38 they surrendered, that’s pretty damn good. The stellar goaltending from Michal Neuvirth did take a fall like I expected, but he still had a save percentage over .900 and recorded 6 wins. Still, some of the shots he let in need to be stopped by any goaltender. I have to think that all the consecutive starts got to him. Braden Holtby played a few games this month and had two good outings, one solid relief appearances and two awful performances, he’s now back in Hershey. The returning Semyon Varlamov was fantastic in the three games he played. Stopped all but 4 of the 74 shots he faced and is 3-0-0 now. With him healthy and playing well, it should give Neuvirth a well deserved rest before they go into a 1a/1b role like I’m hoping.

Time to single some people out.

Top Performers

Alexander Semin – 19 points, 12 goals, two hat tricks…hard to complain with that even with a couple bad games thrown in between. He is doing everything right now. Scoring, playmaking, back-checking and even killing penalties. It’s making me hope he will take a hometown discount IF we re-sign him come July. It probably wont come cheap if he manages to keep up this pace. Sasha’s always been an up-and-down player but this really is a whole new level.

Semyon Varlamov – So glad that he’s back and playing well. 3 wins in the 3 games he’s played this month and shutout against Tampa Bay to boot. I’m still really excited about the goaltending of this team with him and Neuvirth if Varly can stay healthy. His return is very encouraging, though.

Alexander Ovechkin – I said earlier in the month that he wasn’t playing on the level that I expected him too and that was definitely true. There were a few games where he looked lazy and uninterested which led to bad turnovers but he has picked it up as of late. 16 assists in a month and he is leading the team in hits. He has started almost every game off by forechecking really hard to get the momentum going the Caps way and the team is definitely benefiting from it.

Nicklas Backstrom – Recorded 17 points and improved his faceoff percentage to above 50%. He’s also second on the team in takeaways and is starting to take the initiative to shoot the puck more. Resulted in a few nice goals but his playmaking skills are still top notch. Glad to see more of that this month than last.

Karl Alzner/John Carlson – I’m putting both of them here because the two have been the team’s “shutdown pair” recently. On most night’s they have been matched up against the opponents top lines and they have done a great job of holding them off the score sheets. See Friday where they held Stamkos, Malone and St Louis to only 6 shots combined. Carlson has also done a nice job filling in for Mike Green on the powerplay on games where he’s out. Alzner also recorded his first goal in nearly forever earlier in the month. If only he could be a little better on the PK.

John Erskine – Second month in a row he’s gone here. Hard not to after scoring 3 goals, playing solid defense on the 3rd pairing and had what may have been the best fight of the year against Eric Boulton of the Thrashers. It’s hard not to ask much more of him, though but I’m pleasantly surprised to see him outperform my expectations.

Under Acheivers

Eric Fehr – I’m glad he didn’t get that big of a payday this off-season because he really hasn’t found his stride yet this year and was scratched for a couple of games, as well. He had two very big goals but aside from that, a lot of brutal turnovers and careless play which we didn’t see from him last year.

Tomas Fleischmann – Was shipped off to Colorado after continuously struggling and failing to have any chemistry, even when being reunited with old linemate Eric Fehr. I hope for his career’s sake that returning to the right wing in Colorado will turn his career around.

Boyd Gordon – Never good when a guy who specializes in killing penalties has been on ice for 4 PP goals in a month and scratched as a result.

Matt Hendricks – Speaking of bad penalty killers, Hendricks was the worst one on the team for November. Still forchecks hard, adds toughness and can score occasionally but he’s got to kill penalties better.

Mike Knuble – Had goals in back-to-back games but he’s definitely struggling and frustrated with how he’s played this season. It’s gotten kind of worse since he’s not getting the puck to the net as much lately. Only 2 shots the last week.

Other Notable Performances

Marcus Johansson – Finally starting to adjust to the game better and has looked good in recent games. He was skating very well on a lines with Ovechkin and Semin and has 4 points in his last couple of games. Hopefully he can build off this because he’s got a chance to become the 2nd line center permanently.

Jeff Schultz – Still on ice for a lot of goals but remains the team’s best penalty killing defenseman.

Mike Green – Four goals, four assists and a couple of injuries. Had a rough end to the month, though.

Brooks Laich – Nothing extremely noteworthy for him other than his 11 points. You can tell he’s having trouble developing any chemistry whatsoever with Mike Knuble. Which is why he is producing more when he’s playing on the first line or the powerplay with either Ovechkin or Semin. That’s where most of the points came from.

Tyler Sloan – Actually put up 4 points this month and even scored a goal. Then he regressed to his usual self and played 10 minutes or less per night. It’s looking like his time in Washington is close to being done with the trade today, too.

Matt Bradley – Fought Troy Bodie and then bled. That’s about it.

Tom Poti – 2 goals in 4 games for him and a ton of failed clears on the penalty kill. Despite that, it’s good to have him back in the lineup when he’s not playing top 4 minutes.

DJ King – Has been a scratch for all but 2 games.

Jason Chimera – Scored the game tying goal against the Flyers last Saturday. Aside from that, not much to say for him.

David Steckel – Leads the team in faceoff percentage. Unfortunately, the one he lost led to the Hurricanes game tying goal on Sunday….

 

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